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July 13, 2012

Mission Possible: Creative Control

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share her experience with us. Here, Neema Amadala reflects on what participating in these workshops meant to her. 

Imagine being able to interact with a painting and the museum in a completely different manner than usual. Instead of simply standing and admiring the painting, we studied and questioned its possible meaning, we created our own narrative about the painting, we didn’t let someone else interpret it for us. This type of experience can be adapted to any museum or any classroom; this approach makes field trips part of the learning experience not just an afterthought. Students unleash their creativity instead of viewing the museum as yet another excuse to leave the classroom: museums open the doors to learning and adventure.

Each EdLab workshop has a theme for the week and a mission for the day but gives creative control to each individual group allowing you to choose what topics interest you and what you would like to explore further. This format can be used in any setting and made me realize how much flexibility educators have with technology. My favorite creation of the week was the comic book our group created based on a Thomas Hart Benton painting in Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art.

“Achelous and Hercules,” 1947, Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), tempera and oil on canvas mounted on plywood, 62 7/8 x 264 1/8 in. (159.6 x 671.0 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Allied Stores Corporation, and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1985.2.

As a child, I often heard about putting myself in other people’s shoes. For a child this is a difficult thing to imagine: how do I wear the shoes of someone else? The older you get, the better you understand the meaning behind the phrase. It’s still hard to imagine until you talk to the individual, hear their struggles and the challenges they face. This workshop enabled me to understand the difficulties educators face when trying to implement new technologies in their classroom but their presence in the workshop shows their determination to find ways to continue innovating. Innovate on educators, innovate on!

For more information about the Smithsonian EdLab program, click here.

Comic the EdLab workshop participants created

July 6, 2012

EdLab: Mission Possible

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the final guest post in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

EdLab: Mission Possible
By Neema Amadala

We finished our workshop week surrounded by fellow teachers absorbing technology and harnessing creativity. Like in the classroom, it’s important to leave time for reflection after a project to debrief and process the information gained.  

Day Four was all about giving the teachers a chance for this reflection. A chance to put into practice the skills and tools we explored over the week through the creation of our own mission-based learning plan. The mission-based learning plan brings together real objects with technology; it takes the classroom beyond its four walls into the community, not chaining students’ creativity to their desks but giving them the freedom to explore their own neighborhoods and spark change driven by their own passion.  

The technology that was used all week was returned and the time came for the teachers to leave behind the EdLab. The mission isn’t over for these teachers though; these missions are an ongoing process with an EdLab alumni community for teachers to continue sharing their triumphs and tribulations. Maybe the tools and technologies are not as readily available to you, but teaching in a 21st-century classroom isn’t impossible, EdLab inspires you to teach differently, to experience a different way of learning, to just explore because the mission is possible.

In July we will welcome Susan Zwerling from the International Museum of Art and Science, a Smithsonian Affiliate in McAllen, Texas, as she begins her EdLab journey. We plan on following her progress during her two-week stay so stay tuned for more EdLab blogs! For more information, contact the EdLab team at npm.mobilelearning@si.edu .

Mixing work and play at mission possible! Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

 

 

July 5, 2012

Beyond the Walls of the Classroom: Mission Accomplished

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the third of four guest posts in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

Beyond the Walls of the Classroom: Mission Accomplished
By Lisa Hung

Eyes glued to the ground, trying to make her way to the metro without stopping, and occasionally glancing up to verify her surroundings she barely catches glimpses and snapshots of her fast-paced life. At what point do we slow down? It seems that this walk to the metro and the texting in class has become a microcosm for the way many people depict our society to be – distracted, single track minded, and driven by our technology and need to get from point A to B. We end up focusing more on our destination as opposed to our journey, what do we miss when we overlook our surroundings, or more importantly, our community?

The brochure from one of the groups’ presentation.

Day three of EdLab’s workshop required the attendees to step outside of their comfort zones and in 100 degree heat – and we did just that. Art can be a participant in and even a catalyst for conversations about conflicts. Our mission was to design a catalyst that illuminated a local conflict by going into the streets of DC, identifying a need or a problem in the community and developing a plan for how we will get people to care about and work to solve these problems. Being a native of California, I was unsure of the local issues in DC, but being on the streets and truly taking a deep look at everything made me realize that I didn’t need to look far to identify a need or a conflict. If everyone could go around for just one day to identify a simple need and act on it, even if it is for a single individual, we could be stepping into a world filled with moral courage. For example, we had one group focus on raising awareness for the needs of bike racks in a city filled with commuters. Using multi-media tools, they created a brochure, tweeted and called several communities of cyclists, and gathered comment cards to take action and work to solve the issue. Interestingly, some organizations responded to a few tweets and phone calls were returned. This shows how far simply acknowledging and voicing a concern can take you.

This mission was such a wonderful way to have your kids do more than community service. Instead you have them acknowledge an issue, research it, and allow them to find the passion in it themselves. Besides, what’s the point of learning without application and what’s the point in developing critical thinkers without providing a safe space to think? By applying service learning, we can build a bridge between the students and their communities, and what better way to learn something than to tackle an issue in your very own backyard? This mission is not just a task for our educators and students to learn great lessons, but it is something we can use to put a face and a name to the issues we are confronted with.

Stay tuned forthe final blog in our EdLab series! And for more information, contact the EdLab team at npm.mobilelearning@si.edu .

July 3, 2012

Creativity in the Classroom: Mission In Progress

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the second of four guest posts in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

Creativity in the Classroom: Mission In Progress
By Neema Amadala

We may have been running into the museum on Tuesday but do students? What does a typical field trip to the museum look like? Perhaps there are students clustered in groups around a painting listening to the docent tell them about the artifact attentively but can’t seem to bridge the gap between the artifact and themselves.  Or maybe they’re running around room to room disengaged and bored or possibly, upon hearing the word museum, felt sick that day. Why is it that a field trip to the museum doesn’t seem as engaging as a trip to the science center? 

On Tuesday, June 19, mission control was headquartered in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. To unleash our creativity the group started with writing six word stories; it’s remarkable what can be said in six words. In this case, we studied Frank Romero’s Death of Rubén Salazar and let our words tell a story. This was only the beginning of the immersion into art.   

Examining the power behind what six words can say. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

Tuesday’s mission was to take a piece of artwork and create a story with two alternative endings, to tell a tale in which the ending reflected the complexity and ambiguity of conflict and resolution. Given that this mission is broad, if you were to assign this to a group of high school students, you could witness their creativity and excitement skyrocket. This would become evident as you observe them analyzing the painting, building a moral behind their story and capturing the complexity of the piece in a short story. This is what happened in my team of educators. We immersed ourselves in the painting and abandoned all fear of technology (and had fun doing it!) to create a comic we aptly named Benton’s Midwestern Fable.  

Finding the words to interpret the story of Achelous and Hercules. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

What educators may forget is that students have grown up with this technology. Many have no fear of jumping into a new tool if it means they get a chance to play and learn. Therefore why are lesson plans made with only the teacher’s evaluation goals in mind? Why not create plans that will engage students and be enjoyable to evaluate?  

The first page of our creation, Benton’s Midwestern Fable, based on Thomas Hart Benton’s painting, Achelous and Hercules.

 Stay tuned for Part 3 in our EdLab series! And for more information, contact the EdLab team at npm.mobilelearning@si.edu .

July 2, 2012

Teaching in a 21st-Century Classroom: Mission Impossible?

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the first of four guest posts in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

Teaching in a 21st-Century Classroom: Mission Impossible?
By: Lisa Hung

Head tilted, eyes down, arms under the desk, occasionally glancing to see if anyone else can tell what she’s up to. Sweat drips down her brow as she struggles to fix the series of ‘autocorrects’ that can’t help but get her chuckling – the sound of the footsteps draw near and her heart is racing, she looks up in the nick of time and exhales in relief. As the teacher walks away, she picks right back up where she left off. We’ve seen it before, kids on their phones getting pulled away from the classroom. Technology in the hands of a student in a formal classroom environment has become a stigma, something that many feel are taking the students away from their learning. But why turn the other way when you can face the issue, why allow technology to take away from learning when we can use it to enhance it?

Smithsonian’s EdLab Teaching in the 21st Century workshop is aimed to allow educators to explore and launch new media practices for their classrooms providing a safe environment for the educators to come together and work in teams to develop tools and skills that can be applied in their classrooms. On Monday, I was able to partake in this experience. Kim Skerritt and Jeff Meade led the workshops and assigned a warm up by having us write what we thought a 21st-century classroom looked like. Going around you could see words like “classroom without walls”, “interactive”, and “technologic”.  Upon discussion, many of the participants raised some good points and we ultimately asked – are our kids running into school with the same excitement they have running out?

Educators sharing what they felt a 21st-century classroom looks like. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

The mission for the week was to ask how you can solve real conflict, whether that’s in or beyond the classroom. Today’s particular mission was to use objects to inspire activism, so we were split into groups and asked to explore the Smithsonian Castle and search for that piece of artwork and apply it to our weekly theme of “conflict”. Each group member took on a role, and altogether partook in a mission to interview, research and put together a final product. In the Smithsonian Castle, there are cases that represent the 19 different Smithsonian museums and each group chose a different one to represent their cause. For example, the group I was in chose Seed Catalogues in order to represent the issue of eating healthy non-processed foods.  At the end of the day, we were able to immerse ourselves in an environment in which all the participants were able to connect with each other and we left the classroom enthusiastically knowing that we will be running in the same way on Tuesday.

Interested in more information about EdLab? Contact the EdLab team at npm.mobilelearning@si.edu

At the Smithsonian Castle finding an object to inspire activism. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

 

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